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What is TPO Roofing?

TPO roofing is a single-ply rubber roofing system that is commonly used on flat roofs and commercial buildings. The material is made from blending both polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber into polymer. TPO can be fully adhered or applied by a mechanical system. TPO is white in color and is specifically designed to be exposed for the entire lifespan of the roof.

What does TPO roofing stand for?

TPO stands for Thermoplastic Polyolefin and is made from recycled rubber. It is sold by the roll which are held together by glued seams. TPO is also very energy-efficient and can withstand damaging ultraviolet, ozone, and chemical exposure. The reason TPO is a good choice for flat roofs is because single-ply membranes create a leak-proof barrier. 

Residential TPO Roofing

TPO is not as common on residential homes due to the fact that, more often than not, roofs of homes aren’t flat. However, if your roof is flat, TPO can be a good choice.

 

Commercial TPO Roofing

Roofs on commercial properties tend to be flat, and TPO is one of the most popular choices in materials. 

TPO Commercial Roofs

TPO Roofing Life Expectancy

TPO roofing typically lasts between 20 and 30 years. TPO lasts so long because it is compounded with a top coat that reflects both heat and light, which reduces the building’s cooling load. It decreases the damage from ultraviolet light, which is the main reason for premature roof decay. Factors that can affect the longevity of TPO roofing include: wind, hail, membrane thickness, and consistent maintenance.

TPO Roofing Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Puncture resistant
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Durable
  • Heat welding technology
  • Chemical resistant
  • Doesn’t shrink, shatter, or deteriorate
  • Fungi resistant
    • Prevents fungus growth due to its water-resistant material
  • Variety of color options
  • UV resistant
  • Impact resistant
    • Class 4 impact rating, can withstand a storm damages like hail 
  • Low maintenance
    • Occasional inspection or small repair
  • Easy installation
  • Lightweight
    • At most, it weighs about 40 pounds per square.
  • Flexible
    • Can easily wrap around pipes, chimneys, etc. 
  • Versatile
    • Can be used on flat roofs and low sloped roofs. 
  • Temperature
    • It can be installed even during the winter months.

Cons

  • Many different brands
    • Not all brands of TPO roofing are the exact same. As with everything, lower-quality brands will not last as long as a high-quality brand.
  • Price
    • More expensive than a low slope roof, which is to be expected for a quality commercial roof
  • Not quite fire resistant 
  • Difficult technical repairs
    • TPO repairs require a heat welder which can be costly 
  • Slippery
    • TPO can be very slippery when wet, icy, or snowy. However, this is both an advantage and disadvantage. It is an advantage due to its water-resistance, but a disadvantage if you need to walk on the roof.
  • Still a fairly new product
    • TPO has only been around for about 30 years, so new improvements are always being made.
Commercial TPO Roof

TPO Roof Installation

When installing this roofing type, it is screwed down at the seams then heat welds it together to create a water-tight seal. Flashing on chimneys, pipes, etc. are adhered separately and then heat welded to the membrane with the rest of the roofing system. The time frame for this roofing installation can depend on the size of the roof, how much flashing is needed, and the application method used. As with any installation, weather conditions can prove to be a reason for delay. TPO roofing can also be painted using a specialized coating, primer, and paint. 

The first thing to do when installing a TPO roof or a new roof in general is to prepare, clean, and prepare the surface. Then, insulation is added first. The insulation is added for the extra layer of protection from water damage. Once the insulation is put in, the TPO membrane is either mechanically fastened or adhered/bonded. TPO comes in large rolls that are easily spread out across the roof surface. This reduces the number of seams. Once it has been rolled into place the seams are welded together. 

 

TPO Roof Maintenance

Keeping TPO roofing clean allows the material to reflect as much sunlight as possible for as long as possible, extending the life of the roof itself. Due to TPO usually being installed on flat roofs, it is difficult for it to adequately drain. For commercial roofs, the size is always taken into consideration when it comes to the maintenance. As always, the older the roof, the more work may be required. 

 

Comparing TPO to EPDM and PVC

TPO vs. EPDM Roofing

  • Both are single-ply membranes
  • Both last between 15 – 20 years
  • TPO seams are heat welded, while EPDM seams are adhered together
  • TPO reflects heat and UV rays better than EPDM
  • EPDM can be ballasted, while TPO cannot
  • EPDM is less expensive to install than TPO

TPO vs. PVC Roofing

  • Both are single-ply membranes
  • Both have heat-welded seams
  • TPO doesn’t shrink like PVC can
  • TPO is more resistant to tears and punctures than PVC
  • PVC is more resistant to chemicals and fire than TPO
  • PVC is more flexible than TPO

If you’re considering a TPO roof for your home or business, contact Watermark Roofing. We offer free consultations and would be happy to help with your next roofing project.  

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